14 Years of ‘Piscatorial Adventures’

Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures: How are Rex, Starlo and Bushy?

14 Years of ‘Piscatorial Adventures’

The Rex Hunt TV show was immensely popular in Australia through the ’90s and into the new millennium, but many Aussies might not have realised was how huge it also became around the globe!

Aired in more than 160 countries and translated into dozens of language’s, Rex’s benchmark program was an international hit… Nowhere more so than in the Netherlands! To this day, Rex, Starlo and Bushy remain well-recognised figures throughout the Dutch angling world… So much so that acclaimed Dutch fishing journalist, Jeroen Schoondergang, was commissioned in 2021 to write a major, two-part feature for leading European fishing magazine “Zee Hengelsport”, bringing readers up to speed on the lives and times of those three popular Aussie TV presenters in the years since the show ended. Here’s the first part of that double-header, with the original magazine pages on the left, and Jeroen’s translation into English on the right… Enjoy!

It has been quite a few years since the last episodes of Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures were shown on Dutch television. The show had a large following. Viewers watched the afternoon show on Discovery Channel, or waited for one of the many reruns.

The three presenters became celebrities in the Low Countries. Zeehengelsport asked how Steve ‘Starlo’ Starling, Kaj ‘Bushy’ Busch and of course ‘The Bearded Burbler’ Rex Hunt are doing. In part one of this two-part article, Starlo and Bushy talk about their time on TV and life since.

Without any form of exaggeration, you can call Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures a huge, worldwide success. From1991 to 2004, the show scored high ratings on Australian television. But it didn’t stop there. The show was aired in 158 countries, The Netherlands and Belgium included.

“The show was popular in quite a few countries,” says Steve Starling, Rex’s technical sidekick. “The two stand-outs were Ireland and the Netherlands. An Irishmen once explained to me what the secret of our success may have been. It was all about sitting in his dreary, dingy little bed-sit in Dublin with the rain pouring down on grey streets outside while he vicariously lived a life of adventure through our escapades in the sun on his TV screen.”

For Fishermen By Fishermen

Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures was entertainment for all ages. Its accessibility made it successful everywhere it was shown. Despite all the tomfoolery, it offered enough serious fishing content for both novice and experienced fishers, with Rex as entertainer and Starlo and Bushy as fishing experts.

“Especially in the beginning, I only did the tackle talk-segments,” Steve remembers. “So, instead of fishing, I talked about fishing tackle and bait. In the first season I sometimes joked that after having worked with shrimp, squid and other invertebrates, I might be promoted to dealing with fish in the next season!”

Soon though, Steve got the chance to show his fishing talents on the show. Alone, with Rex, or with Bushy, he tackled all types of fishing techniques, whether it was winkle-picking for ‘bread and butter fish’ like King George whiting, bream (pronounced ‘brim’) and leatherjacket, speed- and slow-jigging for tropical speedsters, or fly fishing in rivers, lakes and the ocean, from trout to sailfish.

‘Just A Flesh Wound’

Where Steve approached fishing philosophically, Bushy was the no-nonsense, hands-on type of fisher. In Bushy’s words: “It was an overwhelming experience when I was invited to join the show. Before working together, Rex and I had known each other for some time. When he asked me to join his television project, I didn’t hesitate. For me, it boiled down to doing what I like best: visiting the best locations and getting paid for it! Although, in the beginning, that wasn’t much more than some money to cover expenses.”

Bushy was the guy who, every now and again, tried some crazy stuff on the show. A lot of Dutch viewers remember his rod: The Black Death. He had wrapped the guides in a spiral for more control during a fight.

“The blank was from Silstar,” says Bushy. “I wanted to build a light stick that could handle big fish. I think I succeeded in that, until the rod gave up and broke while we were shooting. A shark on my Rapala was too much for the old Black Death. I think I still have the butt lying around somewhere.”

The episode with the Black Death was an example of how good fishermen who know how to improvise can make great television. After breaking his beloved rod, Bushy did a quick fix with some tape and a piece of rope and tied on a lure. Because, for the Black Death, this was ‘nothing more than a flesh wound’. The first cast with the splinted rod resulted in hooking and landing a hefty giant trevally. After this fish, Bushy allowed the Black Death to retire.

Worldwide Adventures

As the popularity of the show rose, Rex and the crew got the chance to spread their wings. Within Australian borders, you have your work cut out for you if you want to fish every good spot. The team did its utmost and visited places from Tasmania in the south to the northern tip of Cape York and the Kimberly in the west.

Tropical destinations, especially, were a hit with viewers from dreary countries like The Netherlands; giant barramundi, barracuda, trevallies and sharks starred in the show. And everything in an overwhelming setting of mangrove-lined shores, billabongs, rainforest, pristine white beaches and a lot of unfriendly fauna, like snakes and crocodiles.

This combination and variation of fishing destinations is Bushy’s dearest memory from his years in the show. “If you are as crazy about fishing as I am, and suddenly you get the opportunity to fish the finest locations in your country —  which may be some of the finest in the world — it is a dream come true.

“There was always a feeling of mutual understanding with Rex, Steve and the rest of the team,” Bushy continued. “When we travelled, we always carried our own stuff, got into way too tiny airplanes and lived through some eerie moments together. But in the end, the reward always was a beautiful fishing spot, like an exciting estuary, a deep blue ocean, or a beautiful beach to walk and fish together. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Like Bushy, Steve also has some great memories from the locations in and outside Australia. “We visited our island state of Tasmania and our neighbour New Zealand, but also several island nations in the South Pacific. Especially in those places, we felt like real pioneers. Invited by Shimano, we also visited Japan, where we were immersed in completely different fishing culture than we were used to.”

The Bass That Wasn’t To Be

The whole team felt like a family, Steve remembers. “We always laughed with or sometimes at each other. I remember the Solomon Islands, which felt like a survival trip. Harry, our cameraman had washed his last pair of underpants in the sink and had hung them to dry in the bushes outside his hut. When he picked them up next day and put them on, he forgot to check them for creepy crawlies. He soon found out that his underpants had become a home for a very large family of fire ants they didn’t waste any time when Harry put his jocks on. I still remember the swearing and wild dance moves our cameraman invented that day.”

Steve Starling:
“Finesse Works All Over The World”

Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures’ team of presenters all had their own specific part in the show. Steve ‘Starlo’ Starling was the guy who could explain anything: from a difficult fishing knot, to a certain species of fish and technique how to catch them.

Steve compares his relationship with Rex to the one of Al Borland and Tim Taylor in the sitcom Home Improvement. Tim ‘The Toolman’ (Rex) pulled dangerous stunts and entertained while Al (Steve) tried to save the situation with rational advice.

Fishing runs through Steve’s veins. Ever since the 1970s, he has made a career from writing fishing articles and presenting programs about fishing. “My role model was Ron Calcutt, who produced the legendary magazine The Australian Angler. I had written a couple of articles for the magazine when Ron offered me a full-time job.”

After his time at The Australian Angler (which had by then become Fishing World), Steve became a freelance sportfishing personality. Until today, he fills his days writing fishing stories and presenting fishing shows. Together with his wife Jo, he also runs the online platform, where Australian fishing folk and fishers with an above average interest in Australian fishing meet up, share experience and learn from each other. Regularly Starlo posts videos in which he, in typical ‘Starlo-style’, shares tips and tricks that make you a better fisher.

When it concerns recreational fishing, Steve’s mantra is always finesse. “Honing your presentation, lures and other tackle is probably the most overlooked part of our pastime,” steve explains. “That is a shame, because finesse turns an okay fisherman into a great fisherman. It works all over the world, whether you are fishing for barramundi in a billabong or targeting zander in a shipping canal.”

Steve has fished all over the world and has caught more fish than many fishing clubs put together. But there are always open spots on the bucket list. “My dream fish and the one I would really like to catch is a big tarpon. I am realistic about my chances however; whether we ever get the chance again in this changing world to make long haul trips to the US or Central America is doubtful. So, I don’t know if I will ever fulfil my tarpon dream. Oh, and then there is still this little issue I have with European bass.”

For more about Starlo:

Occasionally Steve was also on the receiving end of the playful scorn of his colleagues. “Our trip to England was a fantastic experience for us all,” he explained. “One of the highlights of the special we shot over there was a day with a professional line fisherman, fishing for European bass. It turned out to be a very successful day and the entire crew could add a bass to their list of captures. Even producer Mike, who wasn’t into fishing at all, caught a nice bass without even trying. I was the only one who drew a blank on bass, and I had really been looking forward to catching this iconic European game fish. The team clearly didn’t let this lie in the following weeks. On a daily basis Bushy and Mike had loud discussions about the spectacular take and the fight of the bass. They always concluded their rants with: ‘of course, that is not something you’d know anything about Steve’. It was hilarious, to them.”

Kaj ‘Bushy’ Busch:
Tomorrow I Want to Be A Better Fisherman Than I Am today

Steve Starling has called Bushy the best all-round fisherman he ever fished with. Bushy reacts somewhat modestly to this statement. But he does like to share his vision on what makes someone a good fisherman.

 “I think that you should be critical on yourself. We all have days on the water riddled with bad luck. Sometimes, later, you get ideas about how you could have prevented some of that bad luck. That is the learning curve and those are the lessons I’ll be taking with me on my next fishing trip. Tomorrow I want to be a better fisherman than I am today.”

Bushy enjoys retired life far away from busy towns, surrounded by a lot of beautiful fishing spots. He divides his fishing time between estuary lure fishing from bream, whiting and flathead and trout fishing in lakes and streams.

“I like to take as much advantage as I can of the weather we are having right now. This basically means that I am up at 4 AM and fish to midnight. We have had some very good results lately, but I must say that I am blessed with the quality of the fishing water here. There are plenty of big trout to over two kilos, and with a bit of luck you can stumble upon a six kilo fish, like my fishing buddy did the other day.”

Looking back, Bushy comes to the conclusion that he enjoyed the experience of his years as a television personality. “A friend of mine is very well known from Australian television. She once told me that whatever I did on TV, I should always be myself. And that’s what I did. It’s not different for the rest of the team.”

It seems obvious that you become a celebrity when you and your broomlike moustache (Rex called him ‘The Human Broom’), and are shown on TV in 158 countries. Bushy however, was never interested in fame. “We were famous though”, Bushy says. “I remember that Steve and I were doing some shopping in London during the England shoot. I walked into a small shop to buy some cherries. Without hesitation the shop owner started to talk to me about a segment in the show where I hooked a big fish. That was the moment when I realised how much of an impact the show had, even thousands of miles from home. It felt a bit scary, but it was also a great feeling that we had become virtual fishing buddies to fishermen all over the world.”